Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Art and Poetry as Spiritual Practice

I grew up with no religious training or spiritual practices. Holidays like Christmas and Easter were celebrated because they were fun and were reasons to bring family together for good food, laughter and card games. I didn't attend church or synagogue except for rare transitional events like weddings or funerals. I grew up fine but always with the feeling that something was missing.

Over the years I tested a few religions, tried them on to see if they fit but they required too many alterations to be the right style. I had been told so many times that religion was silly, or wrong, or so much nonsense that I just couldn't find one to suit my needs. And yet, I kept searching for a spiritual practice that would make me feel complete.

I tried yoga, tried to learn meditation and Buddhism, and even spent a weekend at an ashram with a friend to see if there was anything there that could become my spiritual practice.

Over the years yoga and meditation gave me some peace of mind and an excuse to enter the solitude and silence I so desperately require in every day. But it didn't seem enough. And then I discovered something. As a child I had a spiritual practice but didn't know that's what it was. I had poetry and nature and art. I would lie in the cool morning grass of summer and watch the clouds roll by. I would observe the plants turning green in the spring and flowers exploding in an unbelievable variety of colors and shapes. At some subconscious level I must have absorbed all of nature for being the miracle that it is. Mother Nature was my goddess but I didn't name her as such until well into midlife.

Slowly I came back to my childhood passions. First it was poetry--reading and writing poems became my expression of spirituality. A connection to emotions and thoughts that sleep beneath the heart and are difficult to recognize and arouse until I spent many quiet mornings sinking into the rhythm and meaning of poems or watching my own feelings sprawl across the white page in waves of blue or purple ink. 

In later years I discovered I still had a passion for art. I started out scrapbooking then moved on to collage, art journaling, mixed media and painting. I learned techniques through online classes, books and magazines. And finally I had a spiritual practice I could relate too.

Ultimately I needed a way to combine these two creative modes of expression. And though I'm not quite there in a consistent way I started this blog in the hopes I could develop a daily practice of art that incorporated my own poems--or lines from poems by poets I love like David Whyte, Mary Oliver and Mark Nepo.

Here are two samples of my attempts at adding my own poems to my art work.



I'm trying to develop an artistic style that will work and can be consistent so people will recognize the art as mine. I have long since refined my poetic voice and I believe it's fairly recognizable to those familiar with my work. This is definitely an ongoing project but it has become my spiritual practice and I am grateful for that.

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